Everyone who drinks has a tequila story. The tendency of drinkers to go a bit overboard with tequila has inspired many myths about the liquor, ranging from how it affects the mind to how it’s supposed to be drunk. But these myths are overwhelmingly steeped in bad decisions, brutal hangovers and misinformation.
Tequila is a pillar of Mexican tradition and is often sold short here in the U.S. So in the interest of putting some of the more ridiculous tales to rest, here are five of the most insane myths we’ve ever heard about tequila—and why they’re a bunch of bunk.
Tequila Makes You Crazy
Perpetuated mainly by neophyte drinkers and college students around the U.S., the idea that tequila makes you any crazier than other kinds of liquor is total nonsense. There is no evidence to suggest that it harbors any kind of mind-altering, psychedelic qualities. Though drinkers in the 1950s mistakenly believed drinking tequila would cause them to trip—leading to a spike in tequila sales—it was later discovered that they were confusing mezcal (tequila is a type of mezcal) with mescaline, the psychedelic alkaloid similar to LSD. Though you may be convinced that you’d never have felt emboldened enough to jump on the table and dance if it wasn’t for that last shot of tequila, odds are you’d probably have done the same thing no matter what was in your glass. Take it from the pros: It’s not the tequila, it’s you.
Tequila Is Made From Cactus
While the agave plant has spiky leaves and may, however slightly, resemble a cactus, the similarities between agave and cactus start and end there. Tequila contains absolutely no juice, fruit, spine or other part of a cactus plant. The rich, vegetal spirit is instead made by harvesting the hearts, or piñas, of the blue Weber agave plant, which is technically part of the Asparagaceae family. (That means agave is more closely related to asparagus than cactus.) The piñas are then roasted, crushed, fermented and distilled into the spirit we all (well, most) know and love.
All Tequila Tastes the Same
If you regularly pick up your agave spirits from the bottom shelf at the liquor store, we can understand how you might come to the conclusion that all tequila tastes the same. But set your sights up a shelf or two, and you’ll discover a whole new world of tequila, ranging from sweet and vegetal, to rich, oaky and spiced. As with whiskey and rum, tequila comes in a variety of styles, from unaged (blanco) to lightly aged (reposado) to deep amber-hued (añejo and extra-añejo) varieties.
Tequila Is Only Good With Salt and Lime
While we’d never disparage the ultra-popular Americanized way of drinking tequila, it is far from the best—and even farther from the only—way to drink the agave spirit. As any good tequila fan will know, the spirit is a knockout addition to cocktails, from the classic Margarita and Paloma, to a number of other inventive ways bartenders are working it into drinks. But one of our favorite ways to enjoy the spirit (and the most common way to drink it in its home country) is neat or with a side of Sangrita. So the next time you find yourself with a good quality bottle of the stuff, have your shot—but enjoy it too.
Tequila Is Only for Partying
While no party is complete without a bottle of tequila on the bar, it’s far from the only time and place to enjoy the spirit. In the agave spirit’s denomination of origin (the five states of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit and Tamaulipas) tequila is so much more. It has been a vital industry and a way of life for centuries—and not just for the distillers who make the spirit. The tequila industry also supports the farmers who grow and harvest the agave, the artisans who create hand-blown glass bottles and a number of other industries that recycle spent agave into everything from the popular sugar-alternative nectar to paper to fuel. Because of this heritage, the spirit is as revered in Mexico as whiskey is in the States, enjoyed with meals as well as at celebrations, and lauded as a cultural staple. While tequila is commonly sold in the U.S. as a party spirit, it’s slowly climbing out of that hole as more and more brands are marketing their bottlings to Americans as something more than just a quick shot. Soon, we may all be sipping tequila with our dinner—before we go out and do shots of it at the bar. Some traditions never die.